The unemployment rate in America keeps inching downward, measuring 5.3% in July, compared with 5.7% in January 2015 and roughly half the level it was during the worst of the Great Recession circa 2009.
The fact that life has gotten better (or at least more stable) for employees in a wide range of careers means that businesses have a harder time finding eager, aspiring job candidates—especially the kind of experienced, well-qualified ones that are most in demand. Here are a handful of fields facing big worker shortages right now.
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According to Education Week, there are now 100,000 fewer public school teachers than there were in 2008, before the Great Recession caused budget cutbacks and broad layoffs. State budgets have since rallied, and school districts all over the country have gotten the green light to hire many of those teachers back. But because the number of students training to be teachers declined significantly during the recession years, it’s been very difficult to find qualified candidates for the large number of openings.
The New York Times is reporting that cities like Charlotte, Louisville, Nashville, and Oklahoma City—as well as pretty much everywhere in California—need new teachers so badly that they are “hiring novices still studying for their teaching credentials, with little, if any, classroom experience.” Aspiring teachers who are bilingual, and/or who are capable of handling math, science, and special education are particularly desirable candidates.
Not long ago, restaurant owners had it pretty easy when they needed to hire a new chef. There was an abundance of qualified candidates for almost any opening, and restaurants could give a few aspiring employees a test-run in the kitchen before hiring anyone. Lately, however, the tables have turned. According to one restaurant owner who recently spoke to Fortune, it’s more typical nowadays for a dozen different restaurants to be fighting over the same single qualified chef to hire.
The reasons for a shortage of quality chefs mostly boil down to two factors: 1) there have been a flood of new restaurant openings (perhaps 50 in a city like Denver, whereas 10 openings per year is more typical); and 2) the impatience of younger, debt-ridden culinary employees, who aren’t as game as those in the past to learn the craft as low-wage kitchen staff and work their way up the rungs.
The housing bust took a huge toll on construction workers, to the tune of two million lost jobs, according to the Wall Street Journal. Now that the construction business has picked up again substantially, large building companies are struggling to find all of the experienced, qualified carpenters, plumbers, and electricians they need to keep up with the pace of the work.
The shortage of skilled manufacturing workers has been growing for years. The number of American manufacturing jobs that remained vacant was reportedly 600,000 a couple of years ago, and a 2015 report estimates that a skills gap will result in two million jobs going unfilled over the next decade.
Average manufacturing wages have crept up to just over $25 per hour, compared with $24 in 2013. But at least some of the reason manufacturing firms have a hard time finding good workers is that the majority of Americans rank manufacturing low as a career choice. It seems that many think of assembly line and production workers, who tend to make wages of sub-$20 per hour, when they imagine a career in manufacturing. Relatively few think of engineers and machinists—the higher-paid kinds of skilled workers manufacturing companies need so badly.
In Michigan, hospitals have created paid apprenticeships to help attract and train medical assistants. Montana recently hosted a series of summer camps to expose high school students to careers in health care and medicine. Colleges in Florida, Wyoming, Nebraska, and beyond are ramping up outreach and educational programs to entice workers to enter a career in health care. These are among the many strategies being employed to address the looming shortage of doctors, aides, nurses, and other health care workers—who are in demand more than ever as more Baby Boomers retire and more Americans get access to treatment via Obamacare.